Monday, February 10, 2014

International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) 2014 shortlist announced

IPAF 2014 shortlisted titles

Moroccan writers Youssef Fadel and Abdelrahim Lahbibi, Iraqi novelists Inaam Kachachi and Ahmed Saadawi, Syrian author Khaled Khalifa, and Egyptian Ahmed Mourad were today announced as the six authors shortlisted for the 2014 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF, often known as the Arabic Booker).

IPAF is worth a total of $60,000 to the winner - the $50,000 prize itself, plus the $10,000 that goes to each of the six shortlistees. In addition, IPAF guarantees English translation for the winner.

Youssef Fadel is shortlisted for A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me (Dar al-Adab), Abdelrahim Lahbibi for The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya (Africa East), Inaam Kachachi for Tashari (Dar al-Jadid), Ahmed Saadawi for Frankenstein in Baghdad (Al-Jamal), Khaled Khalifa for No Knives in this City’s Kitchens (Dar al-Ain) and Ahmed Mourad for The Blue Elephant (Dar al-Shorouq). Khalifa's No Knives in this City's Kitchens won the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature in December.

This year's stories "are wide-ranging in both subject matter and style," a statement from IPAF says. "They include a prison novel from Morocco; a story about one family’s dispersal around the globe, from 1950s Iraq to the modern day; a police hunt for an Iraqi Frankenstein terrorising Baghdad; one man’s search for knowledge as he travels around North Africa and the Middle East; the grim reality of one family’s struggle to survive in present day Aleppo, and a psychological thriller played out in a psychiatric hospital in Cairo."

The shortlist was chosen from a longlist of 16, announced in January. The longlist included only two women: in addition to Inaam Kachachi there was Saudi writer Badryah El-Bishr (longlisted for Love Stories on al-Asha Street).

Inaam Kachachi

Some of the best-known Arab novelists failed to make the jump from longlist to shortlist; they include  Egyptian Ibrahim Abdelmeguid (longlisted for Clouds Over Alexandria), Sudanese Amir Tag Elsir (366), Algerian Waciny Laredj (Ashes of the East: The Wolf who Grew Up in the Wilderness) and Jordanian-Palestinian Ibrahim Nasrallah (The Edge of the Abyss).

There will be disappointment in Kuwait that after the winning of last year's Prize by the Kuwaiti writer Saud Alsanousi for The Bamboo Stalk - the first time a Kuwaiti novelist had been longlisted, let alone won - the pioneering Kuwaiti novelist Fahd Ismail - 74 this year - did not make the shortlist with his longlisted novel  Phoenix and the Faithful Friend

There were 156 entries for the Prize from 18 countries; all the entrants were published within the last 12 months. The IPAF 2014 winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi on 29 April 2014, on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The Prize was launched in Abu Dhabi in April 2007, and is supported by the Booker Prize Foundation in London and funded by the TCA (Tourism and Culture Authority) Abu Dhabi.

 Saad A Albazei

The shortlist, and the identities of the IPAF 2014 judges, were disclosed  at a press conference held today at the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation in Amman, Jordan. The chair of the judges, Saudi academic and critic Saad A. Albazei, said: ‘This year’s longlist was full of excellent books – a reflection of the overall quality of Arabic fiction published this year – so it was a real challenge to whittle the list down to just six. The shortlisted novels are varied in their narrative styles and language: from discovering virtual reality to the mingling of fantasy and reality, they also include classical language and multiple narrative voices and demonstrate the Arabic novel's ability to flower despite the harsh realities of daily life.’

Professor Yasir Suleiman

Professor Yasir Suleiman, Chair of the IPAF Board of Trustees, comments: "This year's shortlist includes a rich selection of outstanding novels, in which subject, narrative style and atmosphere are dominated by current fragmented reality and human suffering. There are new voices in the list who are reaching this stage in the prize for the first time and more experienced ones who have been there before. Despite their differences, they all have in common humanitarian concerns and masterful storytelling, gripping and enthralling the reader."

Albazei is joined on the judging panel by Libyan journalist, novelist and playwright Ahmed Alfaitouri; Moroccan academic, critic and novelist Zhor Gourram; Iraqi academic and critic Abdullah Ibrahim, and Turkish academic Mehmet Hakki Suçin who specialises in the teaching of the Arabic language and the translation of Arabic literature into Turkish.

The shortlist includes two shortlistees from earlier years: Inaam Kachachi (The American Granddaughter, 2009) and Khaled Khalifa (In Praise of Hatred, 2008).  Shortlistee Ahmed Saadawi has a previous connection to IPAF, through his participation in the 2012 IPAF Nadwa under the tutelage of fellow-shortlistee Inaam Kachachi, and Sudanese Amir Tag Elsir (the latter was shortlisted in 2011 for The Grub Hunter). The Nadwa, held in Abu Dhabi annually since November 2009, is aimed at emerging Arab writers. 

The IPAF 2014 shortlist press release issued by PR consultancy Four Colman Getty includes the following biographies and novel synopses:
Youssef Fadel

Youssef Fadel is a novelist, playwright and screenwriter, born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1949. During the so-called ‘Years of Lead’ in Morocco, he was imprisoned in the notorious Moulay al-Sheriff prison (1974-75). He has published a number of plays and novels. His first play, The Barber in the Poor District, was made into a film directed by Mohamed al-Rakab in 1982. His novel Hashish (2000) won the Grand Atlas Prize, organised by the Embassy of France in Morocco, in 2001. A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me (2013) is his ninth novel.

A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me

A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me - Aziz is a pilot at the air force base who loves flying and forgets his cares when he is up in the air. It is flying that he thinks of on his wedding night, rather his 16 year-old bride, Zina, waiting in the adjoining room. The following morning he leaves his house at the crack of dawn, not to return for 18 years. His wife, Zina, looks for him everywhere - in prisons, offices, cities and forests – asking questions and following false leads, only to be disappointed. However, one day – in the bar where she and her sister Khatima work – a stranger presses a scrap of paper into her pocket. It takes her on one last journey in search of her husband: to the Kasbah of al-Glaoui in southern Morocco, where Aziz crouches in a prison cell, having lost hope of ever being found. A Rare Blue Bird that Flies with Me is a fictional testament to the terrible period of Moroccan history known as 'the years of cinders and lead'.

Inaam Kachachi was born in Baghdad in 1952, and studied journalism at Baghdad University. She worked in the Iraqi media before moving to Paris to complete a PhD at The Sorbonne. She is currently the Paris correspondent for the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat and Kol Al-Usra magazine in Sharjah, UAE. Kachachi has published a biography in Arabic, Lorna, about the British journalist Lorna Hales, who was married to the famous pioneering Iraqi sculptor Jawad Salim, and a book in French about Iraqi women's literature produced in times of war and hardship. She produced and directed a documentary about Naziha Al-Dulaimi, the first woman to become government minister in an Arab country, in 1959. Her first novel, Heart Springs, was published in 2005 and her second novel, The American Granddaughter (2008), was shortlisted for IPAF in 2009 and has subsequently been translated into English, French and Chinese.

Tashari deals with the tragedy of Iraqi displacement of the past few decades, through the life story of a female doctor working in the countryside in southern Iraq in the 1950s. The narrative also follows her three children, who now live in three different continents, particularly her eldest daughter who has also become a doctor and works in a remote region of Canada. The title of the novel, Tashari, is an Iraqi word referring to a shot from a hunting rifle which is scattered in several directions. Iraqis use it as a symbol of loss and being dispersed across the globe. As a way of combating the dispersal of his own family, one of the characters, Alexander, constructs a virtual graveyard online, where he buries the family dead and allots to each person scattered across the globe his/her own personal plot.
 Khaled Khalifa

Khaled Khalifa was born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1964 and holds a BA in Law from Aleppo University. He has written many successful screenplays for TV series, as well as for the cinema. He is also a regular contributor to a number of Arabic newspapers. His third novel, In Praise of Hatred (2006), was shortlisted for IPAF in 2008, and longlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2013. It has been translated into several languages.
No Knives in this City's Kitchens

No Knives in this City's Kitchens is a profound exploration of the mechanics of fear and disintegration over half a century. Through the story of one Syrian family, it depicts a society living under tyranny with stifled aspirations. The family realise that all their dreams have died and turned into rubble, just as the corpse of their mother has become waste material they must dispose of in order to continue living. Written with shocking perception and exquisite language, from the very beginning this novel makes its readers ask fundamental questions and shows how regimes can destroy Arab societies, plundering lives and wrecking dreams. Khaled Khalifa writes about everything which is taboo in Arab life, with a particular focus on Syria. No Knives in this City's Kitchens is a novel about grief, fear and the death of humanity.

 Abdelrahim Lahbibi

Abdelrahim Lahbibi is a Moroccan novelist, born in Safi, Morocco in 1950. He left Safi for Fez in 1967, where he obtained a BA in Arabic Language from the College of Arts and Human Sciences in 1970. He worked as a teacher of Arabic language and literature in secondary education from 1970-1982 and as a school inspector and curriculum co-ordinator from 1984 onwards. He has published three novels: Bread, Hashsish and Fish (2008), The Best of Luck (2010) and The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya (2013).
The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya

The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya A researcher stumbles across a manuscript and attempts to edit it, to make it into a doctoral thesis. Entitled The Journeys of 'Abdi, the manuscript is an account of one man’s journeys from Morocco to the Hijaz in Saudi Arabia in search of knowledge, written in the manner of Moroccan intellectuals such as Ibn Khaldun. ’Abdi’s journey turns into an examination of Arabic and Muslim society, with ’Abdi emphasising the need for Arabs to learn from Europe in order to achieve social progress. Split into two, The Journeys of 'Abdi, known as Son of Hamriya follows both ’Abdi’s search for knowledge as well as the narrator’s attempts to edit his manuscript.
 Ahmed Mourad

Ahmed Mourad was born in Cairo in 1978. He studied cinematography at the Higher Institute for Cinema in Cairo, graduating in 2001. His graduation films The Wanderers, Three Papers, and On the Seventh Day won prizes for short film at festivals in the UK, France and Ukraine. His first novel, Vertigo, appeared in 2007, before being translated into English, Italian and French and made into a television series broadcast in Ramadan 2012. In 2010, Mourad published his second novel Diamond Dust, which was translated into Italian, followed by The Blue Elephant, in October 2012.

The Blue Elephant

The Blue Elephant After five years of self-imposed isolation, Doctor Yahya returns to work at the Abbasiya Psychiatric Hospital in Cairo, where there is a surprise in store for him. In ‘West 8’, the department in charge of determining the mental health of patients who have committed crimes, he meets an old friend who reminds him of a past he is desperately trying to forget. Suddenly finding his friend's fate in his hands, Yahya's life is turned upside down, with one shocking turn of events following another. What begins as an attempt to find out the true mental condition of his friend becomes an enthralling journey to discover himself, or what is left of him.

 Ahmed Saadawi

Ahmed Saadawi is an Iraqi novelist, poet and screenwriter, born in 1973 in Baghdad, where he works as a documentary film maker. He is the author of a volume of poetry, Festival of Bad Songs (2000), and three novels, The Beautiful Country (2004), He Dreams or Plays or Dies (2008) and Frankenstein in Baghdad (2013). He has won several prizes and in 2010 was selected for the Beirut39 Festival, as one of the 39 best Arab authors below the age of 40. He took part in the annual IPAF ‘Nadwa’, or literary workshop for promising young writers, in 2012.

Frankenstein in Baghdad

Frankenstein in Baghdad Hadi al-Attag lives in the populous al-Bataween district of Baghdad. In the Spring of 2005, he takes the body parts of those killed in explosions and sews them together to create a new body. When a displaced soul enters the body, a new being comes to life. Hadi calls it ‘the-what's-its-name’; the authorities name it ‘Criminal X’ and others refer to it as ‘Frankenstein’. Frankenstein begins a campaign of revenge against those who killed it, or killed the parts constituting its body. As well as following Frankenstein’s story, Frankenstein in Baghdad follows a number of connected characters, such as General Surur Majid of the Department of Investigation, who is responsible for pursuing the mysterious criminal and Mahmoud al-Sawadi, a young journalist who gets the chance to interview Frankenstein. Frankenstein in Baghdad offers a panoramic view of a city where people live in fear of the unknown, unable to act in solidarity, haunted by the unknown identity of the criminal who targets them all.

One of IPAF's main aims is to increase the international reach of Arabic fiction. It has guaranteed English translations for all its winners. Egyptian novelist Bahaa Taher’s IPAF winner in 2008 - the Prize's inaugural year - Sunset Oasis was published in English by the Hodder and Stoughton imprint Sceptre in 2009 and has been translated into at least eight languages worldwide. Eygptian Youssef Ziedan’s 2009 winner Azazeel was published in the UK by Atlantic Books in April 2012. 

English translations of the Saudi writer Abdo Khal and the Moroccan author Mohammed Achaari’s winning novels (in 2010 and 2011 respectively) Throwing Sparks and The Arch and the Butterfly are due this Spring from Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP). 

The English translation of Raja Alem's joint 2011 winner The Doves' Necklace is to be published by Gerald Duckworth and Co in the UK, and Overlook Press in the US. The publication date is understood to have been postponed from autumn 2014 as Adam Talib and Katharine Halls are still jointly working on the translation. 

Biographies of the IPAF 2014 Judging Panel:

Saad A. Albazei (Chair of Judges) is a Saudi Arabian critic. He earned his B.A. in English language and literature from the University of Riyadh (now King Saud University) in 1974 and went on to obtain a doctorate in English and Comparative Literature from Purdue University in the USA. He currently works as a member of the Saudi Arabian Shura Council, having been a lecturer at the King Saud University in Riyadh for 30 years. He has published a number of books on Arabic Literature including studies of fiction, poetry, literary theory, terminology and contemporary thought. His book Languages of Poetry: Poems and Readings won the Book of the Year Prize of 2011, awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Information. He edited the Global Arabic Encyclopaedia in 30 volumes.

Ahmed Alfaitouri

Ahmed Alfaitouri is a journalist and writer, born in Benghazi in 1955. He is currently the owner and editor-in-chief of al-Mayadin, a Benghazi weekly newspaper first published in 2011. His career in journalism began in 1973, when he co-founded the Al-Ahli Theatre group and was the editor of its magazine, al-Ra'id. He went on to establish and edit the cultural page of al-Fajr al-Jadid newspaper – entitled Cultural Horizons - Writings of Young Authors - from 1976-77, and in 1978 became editor-in-chief of The Cultural Week, the first weekly Arab newspaper specialising in culture. He spent ten years (1978-1988) as a political prisoner; while in prison, he worked on the seasonal publication of al-Nawafir (Fountains) magazine, written by all the inmates on cigarette papers and produced as a single copy which they could all read. In 1990, he co-founded No magazine, editing several editions as well as contributing anonymous articles. He has published six books including novels, a play and a number of critical works.

Zhor Gourram is a Moroccan novelist, critic and academic. She holds a state doctorate in the analysis of narrative discourse. She is Professor of Higher Education at the Ibn Tofeil University in Kenitra, Morocco, where she is also head of the research laboratory for language, creativity and new media and a director of academic projects and PHD research units. She has previously judged both the Owais Award and the Moroccan Book Prize, awarded by the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, as well as a number of other prizes. She is on the academic advisory boards of numerous Moroccan and Arab journals and is a member of reading committees for several Arab publishers. She has organised Arab and international conferences and events. She was awarded the Royal Sash (for National Merit) at the Casablanca Book Fair in 2012, chosen from a list of 14 candidates from Moroccan and overseas.

Abdullah Ibrahim is an Iraqi academic and critic specialising in narrative and cultural studies. Born in Kirkuk in 1957, he obtained a doctorate in Arabic Literature from the University of Baghdad’s College of Arts in 1991 and from 1991-2003 worked as a Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies in universities in Iraq, Libya and Qatar. From 2003 -2010, he was the coordinator of the International Qatar Prize. He currently works as cultural consultant to the Qatari royal court in Doha. He has published 23 books and is a contributor to the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature. He has won several prizes, including the Shoman Award for Arab Researchers (1997), the Sheikh Zayed Prize for Critical Studies (2013) and the International King Faisal Prize (2014).

 Mehmet Hakký Suçin

Mehmet Hakký Suçin is a Turkish academic, translator and Arabist. He is the Director of the Arabic Language Department at Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey. He holds an MA in Arabic literature and a doctorate in Arabic-Turkish translation. He was head of the committee responsible for preparing the current Arabic language curriculum in Turkey and the curriculum for non-native speakers of Arabic in Europe. In 2006, he worked as visiting fellow at The Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester. He also runs annual workshops in Istanbul on literary translation between Arabic and Turkish. Amongst others, he has published translations of works by Elia Abu Madi, Gibran Khalil Gibran, Youssef al-Khal, Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati, Muhammad al-Maghut, Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis, Ahmad al-Shahawi. His studies focus on Arabic literature, translation studies, teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, and creative drama. Among his published works are: To Be in Another Language: Equivalence in Translation between Arabic and Turkish, 2013; Translation into Arabic: Past and Present, 2012; Active Arabic, 2008; Turkish Grammar for Non-Native Speakers, 2003.
 report prepared by Susannah Tarbush

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